The Importance of Specialised Early Intervention for Autism in South African Education

The Importance of Specialised Early Intervention for Autism in South African Education

In South Africa, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) governs all schools, including preschools, primary schools, and secondary schools. This department offers stringent guidance in developing curricula appropriate for babies and young children.

The DBE’s National Curriculum Framework for children aged birth to 4 years aims to help every child develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours necessary for life, learning, schooling, and work. The curriculum focuses on six early learning and development areas (ELDAs), including well-being, identity and belonging, communication, exploring mathematics, creativity, and knowledge and understanding of the world.

These areas of learning all help prepare the child for the next phase, which is more academically oriented. Schools formally assess children against measurable outcomes for grade RRR, RR, or R during the school readiness phase. At age 6 years, the child moves into the Foundation Phase or Primary School Phase of their school career.

Although every good preschool or Montessori school registered with the DBE aims to prepare children for formal schooling, their curricula do not always address the developmental challenges autistic children face.

More often than not they are not equipped to provide Speech and Language intervention, Behaviour Intervention, Autism intervention, and/or Physical therapy.

“Mainstream schools or preschools are experts at mainstream education for children who develop at a normal pace.”

When a child has a developmental delay – such as autism spectrum disorder – the child requires specialist education and help. They need a curriculum written specifically for autistic children and a therapy-based curriculum taught by specialist educators and a team of dedicated therapists to help the child overcome their developmental delays.

A specialist autism early intervention centre employs a holistic approach to learning and early childhood development, incorporating research-supported methodologies.

They understand that communication is a fundamental part of learning, and speech and communication development is a significant portion of their curriculum. Reputable centres will furthermore promote the use of AAC or alternative communication methods both in class and during one-on-one sessions.

Therefore, if your child struggles with speech or language delays, motor planning difficulties, feeding or fussy eating problems, sleep disturbances, tantrums, concentration, sensory issues or skills for daily living, placing your child in a specialist autism preschool is the best way forward. It provides the best chance for future mainstream education.

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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.